South African Slow Food knowledge-sharing community launched over a good meal

On Friday night (3 May 2019) a Coastal Food Jam took place at Soute in Salt River. The event was the culmination of a two day Transformation Lab (T-Lab) for Coastal Wild Food stakeholders in the Western Cape.

“A diverse group of folk, including traditional small-scale fishers, restaurateurs, chefs and academics joined together to collaborate on cooking. After spending two days having often intense conversations about ethical ways to advance indigenous coastal wild food knowledge in the Cape, it was fitting to let off some steam while enjoying and learning about the food in question,” explained Dr Laura Pereira, researcher at City, University of London.

Coastal wild foods are a relatively uncelebrated aspect of the traditional Cape diet and go beyond fish to include such things as soutslaai, veldkool and dune spinach.

Fishers from the West Coast lead the way, showing others how to prepare such traditional staples as filleted snoek and snoek head soup.

“It is always exciting for me to show people how to make the traditional old foods I grew up with,” said Solene Smith, who works with the fishing community in Langebaan.

“The idea of a the food jam was to break down social barriers through cooking,” explained Perreira. “We also used the event to launch the South African Slow Food knowledge-sharing community. This communitywill bring together researchers and Slow Food to create an ongoing relationship, building trust between academics and the Slow Food Community to foster a flourishing space for true knowledge co-production and exchange around systemic transformation towards good, clean and fair food for all.”

“My experience at Food Jams was a definite eye opener to the vast array of undiscovered, or rather, rediscovered ingredients and flavours we have available along our beautiful coastlines,” said Matthew Christians, owner of Wild Peacock Fine Food Merchants. “Having these products available in our local kitchens will excite and challenge even a seasoned chef.”

T-labs are carefully designed and facilitated processes aimed at supporting multi-stakeholder groups to address complex social-ecological system problems by creating “safe” spaces to discuss and launch innovations. The space is designed to afford diverse groups the opportunity for deeper engagement in order to foster transformation.

This T-Lab was intended to strengthen a coalition of coastal food actors from across the system by building connections and identifying practical steps that participants can take in anticipation of future disruption and opportunities that arise. This was undertaken through practical connections, mutual learning, personal reflection, networking and strategic reflection particularly about policy.